Tag Archives: pronouns

Where Are the Editors?

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This morning I read an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by a man extolling the advantages of couples sleeping in separate bedrooms. Given the situation in his household, he made a convincing personal argument. He ends the essay by writing that the two-bedroom solution might not work for everyone, “but for my wife and I,” it is working well.

OK, so he didn’t know that when deciding between I and me, if you temporarily remove the other person, you’ll immediately know which pronoun to use. He never would have written, “for I, it’s a good solution.” Adding his wife back in changes nothing. It still should be “for my wife and me.”

The author made the error—but where was the editor of the op-ed page of the LA Times? I can come to only two conclusions: either no editor exists for op-ed pieces, or there is an editor but that person also is ignorant about which pronoun to use. Either situation saddens me. You, too?

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Do You Pronounce the T in Often?

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I was recently asked why we sometimes pronounce the T in often but not in listen. I wasn’t sure, so I consulted the grammar guru who writes the invaluable blog  Grammarphobia, Pat O’Conner. She wrote the equally invaluable (and funny) book Woe Is I. You can subscribe to Grammarphobia and get her frequent posts on English language oddities. I highly recommend it.

This is blog post of hers that addressed the meandering T:

<<Q: I just discovered your site and I plan to return often. Oh, that reminds me – it makes me crazy to hear people pronounce the “t” in “often.”

A: The word “often” can be pronounced with a silent “t” (the more common pronunciation) or with an audible “t.” Both are correct, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) says the version with the audible “t” occurs in educated speech but is considered unacceptable by some.

American Heritage has an interesting usage note after its entry for “often.” During the 15th century, it seems, English speakers stopped pronouncing some sounds within consonant clusters, making the language easier to articulate. Examples include the “d” in “handsome” and “handkerchief,” the “p” in “consumption” and “raspberry,” and the “t” in “chestnut” and “often.”

With the rise of public education and people’s awareness of spelling in the 19th century, according to the dictionary, sounds that had become silent were sometimes restored. This is what happened with the “t” in “often.”

You might be interested in knowing that “often” was originally just “oft,” and “oft” was commonly used as a prefix in word combinations that are archaic and unrecognizable today. Even a word like ‘oftentimes,” which appears in modern dictionaries, seems dated and has musty, quaint overtones. It’s also a term that drives people crazy because of its apparent redundancy. But in fact, the words “oftentime,” “oftentimes,” and “oftime” date back to the early 1400s, and “ofttimes” was first recorded in the 1300s, so they have a venerable history.>>

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“Dior and I”

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This is the title of a new film that was reviewed in today’s Los Angeles Times. Does the title make you wonder if the pronoun is correct? In fact, it depends what the filmmakers wanted to say.

“Dior and I” is correct if you are using “I” as the subject pronoun it always is. For instance, “Dior and I collaborated on many shows.”

But “Dior and Me” would be correct if you’re using “me” as the object pronoun it always is. For instance, “The Winter 2000 show was produced by Dior and me.”

If you are uncertain about when to use “I” and when to use “me,” I hope this helps.

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Frequently Confused Words

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To my eyes, the words its and it’s cause the greatest confusion. I know I have written about this before, but in case you need a quick refresher, here goes:

Its is a possessive pronoun: The dog wagged its tail. The tail belongs to the dog. No possessive pronoun ever has an apostrophe: hers, his, our, theirs—see? No apostrophes. Its is a possessive pronoun; therefore, no apostrophe, ever.

It’s is a contraction. It means either it is or it has:

It’s expected to rain later today. (Substitute it is.)
It’s been a long time since Southern California had a good rain. (Substitute it has.)

When you are thinking about using it’s, the one with the apostrophe, see if you can substitute it is or it has. If you can’t, you want the possessive form, its.

Two other words that cause serious problems are who’s and whose. This distinction is just as easy:

Who’s is a contraction, meaning who is or who has:

Who’s going to run for committee treasurer? (Substitute who is.)
“Who’s been sleeping in my bed,” growled Daddy Bear. (He means who has.)

Whose is a pronoun showing ownership: Whose pen is this? If you can’t substitute who is or who has, you want the possessive form, whose.

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Pronouns and Antecedents

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Fear not: an antecedent is nothing more than a word (or words) that come before a pronoun. The pronoun refers to that word, the antecedent.

You know what you mean, but your reader doesn’t. Problems arise when we use pronouns, but the antecedent either is unclear or missing. Here are some examples:

1. Robert smiled fondly at his brother and said he had saved his life. (Who saved whose life?)

2. Annie told Robin she was confused. (Who’s confused?)

3. Aaron is a good cook, which he practices daily. (What does he practice daily? The missing antecedent is “cooking.”)

4. Rosalie threw her iPhone on the tile floor and cracked it. (She cracked the tile or her phone?)

When you use a pronoun, picture drawing an arrow from that pronoun to the word it refers to. If your arrow goes nowhere, rewrite your sentence to clarify the antecedent.

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Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

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So many people think “I” is a classier pronoun than “me.” It isn’t. Both are equally weighted in the World of Pronouns. If you have used a preposition, you need to follow it with an object pronoun, which is what “me” is.

You wouldn’t say or write, “Janie sent an email to I,” would you? See that “to”? It’s a preposition, and therefore needs to be followed by an object pronoun: She sent the email to ME.

“Between” is also a preposition. I cringe when I see or hear “Between you and I.” Again, it’s ME. Here’s a list of some other common prepositions: for, from, above, under, below, beneath, underneath, near, next to, along, about, down, up, across….You see they indicate location or direction.

Here are other object pronouns: Her, him, us, them. Whenever you use a preposition, you’ll need one of these pronouns. Don’t say or write, “Between Bob and he.” It’s “Between Bob and him.”

If you use “I” or another subject pronoun, such as she, he, we, they, people are going to shudder. You don’t want that to happen. Use your object pronouns proudly.

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A Quick Pronoun Quiz

Which sentence is grammatically correct?

1. My boyfriend likes soccer more than me.

2. My boyfriend likes soccer more than I.

Hmmm. You’re thinking about this one. Scroll down and see if you are correct.

 

 

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Both sentences are correct. The first one is really saying that my boyfriend likes soccer more than he likes me. The second sentence says he likes soccer more than I do.

If you’re not sure about which pronoun to use, think about what the sentence is actually saying and add the missing but understood words.

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